Kenilworth Science and Technology Charter School has come under state scrutiny for its high number of uncertified teachers, state records showed Friday.
In addition, officials of the state Department of Education have also raised questions about how the school handles special education.
Both issues are contained in emails and other documents released as a result of a public records request filed by The Advocate on July 21.
The school has been under investigation by the department since July 20, in part because the firm that oversees Kenilworth also was in charge of a New Orleans charter school whose contract was canceled earlier this week by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Kenilworth Principal Hasan Suzuk said in an email response to questions that the success of his teachers is “well proven” by this year’s student test scores and many are working to earn their teacher certification.
Kenilworth has about 450 students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades.
Classes start Wednesday.
The documents show that, during the 2010-11 school year, 36 percent of teachers at Kenilworth were uncertified and 59 percent the school year before.
The state averages for all teachers listed as having non-standard credentials, including the uncertified, were 4 percent and 5 percent, according to a July 27 email written by Hall Morrison, who is with the department’s Division of Certification, Preparation and Recruitment.
Certified teachers have to earn a college degree, finish with at least 2.5 out of a perfect 4.0 grade point average and pass a national teacher exam.
Certification is considered a key factor in the quality of instruction.
Erin Bendily, whose office oversees charter schools in Louisiana, said Friday she was encouraged that the percentage of uncertified teachers dropped between the first and second school years for Kenilworth.
State guidelines say all teachers in core subjects should be certified by the school’s third year, said Bendily, who is assistant deputy superintendent of departmental support.
In another area, state officials in May told Suzuk the school’s ratio of special education teachers to students needed attention.
Shenell R. Deville, director of academics for the department, said in a May 4 email to Suzuk that Kenilworth had two teachers, one para-educator and one substitute teacher to serve all the special education students.
“This is not appropriate and hinders the process of meeting individual needs as mandated in the students’ individualized education program,” the email says.
Bendily said the school has submitted a correction plan, which she said state officials will monitor.
Suzuk said Kenilworth has hired additional teachers and staff for special education students and improvements in its correction plan are being implemented.
The emails also touch on a 2010 department check about reports of a “prayer room” at the school.
Earlier this week Shirl E. Gilbert II, a deputy superintendent of the department, said he checked the reports last year amid complaints from parents.
Gilbert said he found a prayer rug apparently used by teachers of Turkish heritage.
However, he said the issue ended after a meeting with schools leaders and then state Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek.
School officials have denied any wrongdoing.
Tevfik Kosar, a member of the board that oversees Kenilworth, said Thursday in an email to a reporter that Gilbert made an unannounced visit to the school on May 18, 2010, searched it without permission and was unable to find a prayer room “because none exists.
“During his search of personal drawers of some of the teachers, Dr. Gilbert found one Bible in one of the drawers and one small rug in another drawer,” Kosar wrote.
Kosar is a member of the Pelican Educational Foundation board, which holds the charter for Kenilworth.